http://absolutetruth613.blogspot.com/2012/06/seeing-sounds.html ”Absolute truth claims that Israeli scientists have discovered that the sound waves produced by the pronunciation of “Hebrew” letters correspond to the shape of17 out of 22 those letters. I was wondering if you could debunk this claim of divinely inspired letters?
Ahh, this one! I’ve only seen this once before, in a book presented to me by some zealous chabad kids in Prague. Even then, while I was still theistic and somewhat religious, I found this to be a bit too implausible and asked for sources. The kid showed me a book - a kind of “100 miracles that prove judaism true!” kind of book - which of course had no sources. I googled the name of the “scientist” and research later and found no results.
And, having just done all that again, I again found no matches. Nothing on the entire web that matches that name and research aside from a few kiruv books and websites like the one linked which all give the same scanty description. That’s already a huge red flag. And especially since a piece of research like this, were it to be true and real, would be a pretty big deal. But no, somehow it’s completely absent and all references to it lack any original sources entirely. (Well, one offered a phone number to buy the research, lol)
It’s also why I was a bit let down - though not surprised - when the author of the linked article originally implied that he read an actual science article but that “The article is too extensive and technical for reproduction here”.. and when later pressed for the source he had to admit that, “I took the information from a fascinating book by Rabbi Zamir Cohen called ‘The Coming Revolution.’ I don’t have the book available now to research the original article, but do recommend you get the book.”
So, right off the bat, we have some pretty fantastical claims with absolutely no sources or evidence whatsoever. Frankly, I don’t think anything need be said to debunk a “scientific" claim that appears entirely invented and wholly lacking in scientific evidence aside from some hearsay. So, yeah, that’s the main point.
But even if we ignored the lack of evidence and assumed this research was real and legit, there are a few things to consider:
1) How were these letters pronounced? There are a variety of traditions in how to vocalize them. And some letters have multiple pronunciations! (e.g. kof and chof, bet and vet, etc)
2) The current hebrew script, it is well known, is not the original hebrew script, as even the Talmud discusses (along with actual modern researchers - though the linked article simply dismisses it bc “kabbalah”). The original hebrew script - which, unsurprisingly, evolved from similar scripts used by surrounding and more ancient cultures - looks quite different and would therefore not work with the alleged research at all. (wiki)
3) He claims that 17 out of 22 letters produced these results - what about the other 5? In other words, around 22% of the letters don’t work. (And that’s assuming the other 17 actually fit well and aren’t shoe-horned in to make it fit, like some of them already appear.) So why would that be? How does that fit with a divine language with these purported properties? Shouldn’t all of them display this amazing property?!
4) There is no picture to sound. All picture created by sound is a representation, the same way infra-red cameras portray heat as a color. Or how our eyes invent colors, for that matter! A sound may “look” like a bump on a record, like a stock trend in typical audio processing equipment, as 1 & 0s on a floppy disk, as trippy visualizations in the right media player, or even taste certain ways for those with that kind of synesthesia. None of them are the way sounds look or taste, they’re just representations. So even if this research were true, while it’d be interesting, all it’d really mean is the guy found one way to process sounds according to certain algorithms that roughly translate into some of their modern written forms. But tweak the program a bit, and it would be a different story.
Which is also quite relevant to the framing of the linked article: “The Israelites saw the sounds at Mt. Sinai!” Really? Did they have computers with that particular software on it? Cause that’s the only way this research - were it real - could make sense as an explanation here. Otherwise it’s rather irrelevant.
4) But even if all the objections were gone, and we thought this was real, etc etc - what would that prove? At best it would be an interesting phenomenon. Noteworthy for a discussion about god and hebrew, but also noteworthy for discussions of synesthesia (e.g. The Bouba/Kiki effect), communication, and the origin of language. That is to say, it could just as well have a fascinating but natural explanation. And of course, it could just be a coincidence, esp if only 78% is alleged to work this way (and again, assuming they’re not shoe-horned in like the bet I reproduced above.)
Remember, humans have an amazing tendency to see shapes and patters where there are none, and to infer design where there is none. That’s why we do research, bc an interesting observation doesn’t mean it’s anything more than a coincidence… and that’s assuming the observation was real.
So next time someone says that the hebrew letter “bet” looks like a house (“bayit”) with an open door… suggest that the word “boob” also shares this amazing property.